I just closed the cover on my 504th book read this year, and I loved so many of them. After looking over my list, I decided to craft my Best of 2017 from books that gave me joy this year and that I really want you to read. I adored the time I spent in these stories and several of them have characters I still carry around in my heart. Asking me to narrow a list of beloved books down to ten was enough of a challenge, asking me to rank them is a no go, so these are presented in no particular order. Also, as I look over this, I realize that for the first year ever, I have no historical romances on here, even though I loved many. This year was the year of contemporaries for me – I needed joy in present tense.

Triumph by Cecilia London

This book is the finale of The Bellator Saga, a series of post-apocalyptic novels that I have slobbered about all over the place for years. It’s the perfect culmination to a rich series that demands a lot of its readers. Ms. London writes for adults and about adults; complicated, wounded, wise, powerful, petty, grieving, joyful adults. In an age where a lot of communication is being boiled down to 280 characters, this is a lengthy meditation on marriage, love, patriotism, devotion, and the importance of orgasms. Gerard/McIntyre 2020.

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Hate To Want You by Alisha Rai

I was blown away by the craft involved in this book. It takes a deft hand to drop me in the middle of a story and trust I’ll find my way, without alienating me so much that I’m lost. Ms. Rai nails it. The characters are complicated and grounded and the story is captivating. Plus, few write sexytimes like she does. (This is the first of a series, and the second, Wrong to Need You, is a super close runner up for this list.)

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Royally Matched by Emma Chase

I am 100% a sucker for royalty stories, I admit, but this one is so good. I listened to it on audio and actually set an early alarm for a few days so I’d have more time to listen before work. Charming and sexy, plus my favorite bookworm-to-princess trope, I loved the crap outta this thing.

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Famous by Jenny Holiday

I still dream about sleeping on the porch in this book. I love Emmy and Evan and I loved their story and I love that porch.

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Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon

This book is emotionally searing and deliciously sexy. It walks the line between romance and erotica for sure but walks it so deftly that I loved every second. If you’re looking for a good BDSM romance that honors the traditions of the community, doesn’t trivialize them, and lets you completely connect with the hero and heroine – get Haven on your e-reader stat.

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Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap by Julie Anne Long

This book has shown up on so many “Best of” lists for a reason, y’all. Hilarious, quirky without being twee, sexy as all get out, relatable and refreshing, this was the first book by Ms. Long that I’ve read, and I expected to enjoy myself, but I didn’t expect to literally be unable to put this book down. Seriously. I started after dinner one evening, expecting to read a few chapters before getting ready for bed. The book gods laughed at that one, because the next thing I knew it was midnight and I was nearly hugging my Kindle for love of this book.

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Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins

I’m not sure how each book this woman writes is better than the last, but it is. This one is about a woman who learns that finding herself is a continual process instead of a one time event. Nora heads home to Maine after decades of promising herself she never would. She’s got a lot of baggage, no lie, but the process of working through it changes her. Nora finds love in the process – not only with a fella, but with her family and some new found friends. It’s just a fabulous book, y’all. It really is.

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Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

Almost no other book haunted me this year the way this one did. The story of a dystopian reality in which the sexes are equal until the girls begin to menstruate, the questions it raises about love and secrets and history and childhood and personhood tumbled around my brain for weeks after I closed the cover. Different to anything else I read – this is the odd book out on this list and included because it was achingly hopeful in some ways – and highly recommended for fans of quietly haunting fiction that has nothing to do with ghosts.

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Brew: A Love Story by Tracy Ewans

Single dad running a brewery with his brothers finds love with a brilliant but bristly ER doctor. This ticks about seven of my trope boxes and I was delighted by every page. I loved the brothers, I loved Ella (the heroine) and Boyd’s son together, even if the kid bordered on too good to be true. I love the whole feeling of the village surrounding these folks and felt completely secure in their happily ever after.

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2017 was a dumpster fire for a lot of reasons – personally and globally – and I tried to read a lot of nonfiction from wise women to help light my way. Yes, this is cheating, but this trio deserves to be on this list

How to Be Champion by Sarah Millican (hilarious and perfect, reminded me the value of authenticity and not being alone), Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker (gave me the language of bonus moms and forced me to try to cook with hot sauce), and Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown (I don’t really have sufficient words for this one, but yeah. Recommended.)